National Academies Press: OpenBook

Science and Food: Today and Tomorrow (1961)

Chapter: Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Research Council. 1961. Science and Food: Today and Tomorrow. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18719.
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Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Research Council. 1961. Science and Food: Today and Tomorrow. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18719.
Page 2
Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Research Council. 1961. Science and Food: Today and Tomorrow. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18719.
Page 3
Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Research Council. 1961. Science and Food: Today and Tomorrow. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18719.
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Introduction WILLIAM J. DABBY Professor and Head, Department of Biochemistry, Di- rector, Division of Nutrition, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Chairman, Food Protection Committee In discharging its responsibility toward assuring that the quantity, kinds, and quality of foods necessary for maintenance of health and productivity of the population are available, the Food Protection Committee has increasingly become conscious of the need of a broad understanding of the contribution which science makes to our food supply and our absolute dependence upon the continuing effective application of scientific knowledge in order to assure continuing abundance of healthful food. Dur- ing the past three decades great strides have occurred in food production, distribution, marketing, and conservation. Our na- tional food consumption and nutritional health have benefited greatly therefrom. We are experiencing the forceful emergence of industrialized food—a development which has almost elimi- nated the obligatory seasonal marketing of foodstuffs, which has presented the consumer with an unparalleled variety of foods of high nutritional value, and which has shifted the burden of food preparation from the household kitchen to the industrial kitchen. All of this is at a monetary expenditure of a slightly smaller fraction of consumer income than was consigned to food twenty years ago. During the next fifteen years in the United States there is anticipated a population growth to 230 million, to feed which we would need about 200 million more acres of crop land if the yields per acre were to remain the same as in 1956. We do not

have an additional 200 million acres and, in fact, will not need them because of the rising productivity on the farms and the better utilization of foodstuffs which are possible as a result of scientific developments and application of science throughout the food chain. Denied the full application of scientific knowledge, resources, and imagination, this country could be in a vastly inferior nutri- tional position by 1975 or shortly thereafter. What are some of the scientific developments and applications which constitute our resources for food production? I include among these the improvement of crops and farm animals by plant and animal breeding; the extension of our scientific under- standing of soils and soil needs for maximum production; the ingenious application of our scientific knowledge and resources to meet these needs; and the control of diseases of plants and animals, as well, indeed, as of human diseases. Such disease control may be compared to preventive medicine in man, al- though we must add to our consideration of it the potential influence on other animals, including man, of the use of the preventive measure. I believe further that these resources should include new and improved methods of preservation and of main- tenance of sanitary and hygienic foods, whether these embrace new techniques of food processing, better packaging materials, or different and more beneficial procedures for sterilization of foods and prevention of enzymatic changes and oxidative ran- cidity. Adaptation of food preparation to meet today's and to- morrow's demands resulting from changed economic and social conditions must continue. It is the responsibility of industry to assure that these alterations are made without sacrifice of nu- tritional values or introduction of increased hazard and that they are associated with maintenance or improvement of nutrient quality. Ethical industry has accepted this responsibility and has found that doing so is beneficial to the industry. In our continued evolution of a system of food production and distribution in a changing economic and social order we have taken advantage of numerous labor-saving mechanisms, such as the tractor, the milking machine, the automatic feeding and

watering devices, the herbicides, the rodenticides, the pesticides, the many devices and substances which make it possible eco- nomically to distribute appealing, wholesome, and nutritious food products in a ready-to-eat or partially prepared state. I see the disappearance of the old distinction between agricul- turally and industrially produced foods. Rapidly the boundaries between the two are dissolving. In a technologically advanced society it is inevitable that this occur. Our concern is to assure that these rapidly evolving changes are beneficial and not harmful, that the benefits are associated with a minimum of hazard, that those who bring forth new de- velopments are aware of their responsibility for proper appraisal of these developments prior to widespread application. A major responsibility, therefore, of those concerned with food protection is to assure the fullest sound application of scientific knowledge in order to insure continued availability of adequate healthful foods. Bias, bigotry, and faddism must not be permitted to influence laws and regulations of this country in such manner as to interfere with the full use of our nutritional resources, be these resources agricultural or industrial. Thus, the interest or reaction of responsible groups must not compromise the nutri- tional quality nor the safety of our food supply. Only through widest public understanding of those forces concerned with pro- vision of foods, of the contributions to abundant healthful food supply made by the many segments of America's resources can we have developments most advantageous to the American public. In an effort to help us meet this responsibility the Food Pro- tection Committee has arranged this symposium which deals with the broad subject of science and technology in relation to foods. Mindful, however, of the responsibility which we all have, individually as scientists and collectively as a nation, for better- ing the nutrition of less abundantly fed nations, we have included in this program consideration of the contribution which the ap- plication of existing scientific knowledge can offer to those regions of the world where severe limitations of food continue to result in prevalent deficiency states.

It is our sincere hope that this symposium will afford a vista of such breadth that those gathered here, as well as those whom we teach and influence, may see in proper perspective the varied concerns, and no longer have vision blocked by unnecessary barriers or by limiting features perhaps desirable in the past, but currently obsolete.

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